Planet Rugby

Preview: Highlanders v Sharks

03rd May 2013 07:11

Share:

Hosea Gear Highlanders v Sharks SR 2012

Battle of Dunedin: Highlanders v Sharks

After suffering eight successive losses, the Highlanders will be a desperate side when they host the Sharks in Dunedin on Saturday.

Th home side were amongst the early favourites to win the tournament, at the start of the campaign, but things have gone pear-shaped for coach Jamie Joseph and his troops.

Their eight straight losses, is the Highlanders' worst start ever to a Super Rugby season. In 2008, they lost their first six games of the season before beating the Lions in Dunedin.

Of those eight defeats, their biggest losing margin came against the Cheetahs in Round four when they lost 36-19 in Dunedin and their narrowest loss came against the Reds in Round seven when they beaten 34-33 at the same venue.

They will, however, be well rested after having a bye last week.

It's difficult to pinpoint where the Highlanders' faults lie but something that has been evident throughout their campaign is their inability to play as a unit.

On too many occasions, their forwards and backs have been on different wavelengths and if they want to claim that elusive win this is an area which they must improve in.

The loss of Ma'a Nonu in midfield through injury has been offset by the return of fellow All Black Tamati Ellison, who makes his first appearance of the season after a lengthy spell on the sidelines after shoulder surgery.

Despite their poor form, players like Ben Smith and Hosea Gear have been playing well and if the Highlanders want to be successful they should try to create space for these potent attacking weapons to exploit.

Although they are in a better position than the Highlanders, the Sharks are in the midst of a slump of their own after losing their last three matches.

The showed plenty of resolve to fight back against the Chiefs last weekend, but still didn't do enough to win.

Coach John Plumtree was however happy with the four tries his team scored in Hamilton for only their second try-scoring bonus point of the season after they had gone try-less for three matches before that.

"We took a step up in the try-scoring department against the Chiefs when we scored four tries against the current champions and we're hoping we can continue that this week against the Highlanders," he said.

"We took some confidence out of the way we played, but at end of day, we lost and that's disappointing. The players are really disappointed.

"They've lost three games in a row and we're under pressure now, we can't really afford to lose any more and we have to create that desperate edge that will drive us hard on the weekend.

"It's tough times for all of us but the players need to have the confidence to go out there and play on the weekend - that's certainly been something we've talked about."

Prediction: Both sides are not in the best of form but with Brad Thorn celebrating his 100th game in the competition his team-mates will be motivated to do it for the former All Black. Highlanders by four points!

Highlanders: 15 Ben Smith, 14 Phil Burleigh, 13 Tamati Ellison, 12 Shaun Treeby, 11 Hosea Gear, 10 Colin Slade, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 TJ Ioane, 7 John Hardie, 6 Jarrad Hoeata, 5 Josh Bekhuis, 4 Brad Thorn, 3 Chris King, 2 Andrew Hore (c), 1 Tony Woodcock.
Replacements: 16 Liam Coltman, 17 Ma'afu Fia, 18 Elliot Dixon, 19 Joe Wheeler, 20 Fumiaka Tanaka, 21 Hayden Parker, 22 Jason Emery.

Sharks: 15 Riaan Viljoen, 14 JP Pietersen, 13 Frans Steyn, 12 Meyer Bosman, 11 Lwazi Mvovo, 10 Pat Lambie, 9 Charl McLeod, 8 Lubabalo Mtembu, 7 Marcell Coetzee, 6 Keegan Daniel (c), 5 Franco van der Merwe, 4 Pieter Steph du Toit, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 2 Kyle Cooper, 1 Wiehahn Herbst.
Replacements: 16 Craig Burden, 17 JC Janse van Rensburg, 18 Anton Bresler, 19 Jean Deysel, 20 Tian Meyer, 21 Piet Lindeque, 22 Odwa Ndungane / Derick Minnie.

Date: Saturday, May 4
Kick-off: 19:35 local (08:35 BST, 07:35 GMT)
Venue: Forsyth Barr Stadium, Dunedin
Referee: Steve Walsh (Australia)
Assistant referees: Mike Fraser (New Zealand), Kane McBride (New Zealand)
Television match official: Keith Brown (New Zealand)

Forthcoming Fixtures
FixtureDetails
All times are local
Aviva Premiership
Friday , September 19
Gloucester vs Exeter19:45
Saturday , September 20
Sale vs London Welsh14:00
London Irish vs Saracens15:00
Harlequins vs Wasps15:00
Bath vs Leicester15:15
Sunday , September 21
Newcastle vs Northampton14:00
More Aviva Premiership fixtures
Guinness PRO12
Friday , September 19
Munster vs Zebre19:30
Cardiff Blues vs Ulster19:35
Connacht vs Leinster19:35
Saturday , September 20
Newport Gwent D'gons vs Glasgow14:40
Scarlets vs Benetton Treviso18:00
Sunday , September 21
Ospreys vs Edinburgh16:00
More Guinness PRO12 fixtures
Top 14
Friday , September 19
Brive vs Toulon18:00
Saturday , September 20
Racing Metro Paris vs Toulouse18:00
La Rochelle vs Bordeaux-Begles18:00
Grenoble vs Bayonne18:00
Castres vs Oyonnax18:00
Clermont Auvergne vs Lyon18:00
Montpellier vs Stade Francais18:00
More Top 14 fixtures
Currie Cup
Friday , September 19
Lions vs Pumas19:10
Saturday , September 20
Western Province vs Griquas15:00
Blue Bulls vs Sharks17:05
Eastern Province Kings vs Cheetahs19:10
More Currie Cup fixtures
ITM Cup
Thursday , September 18
Northland vs TaranakiNorthland vs Taranaki Preview
Friday , September 19
Counties Manukau vs CanterburyCounties Manukau vs Canterbury Preview
More ITM Cup fixtures
Recent Results
FixtureDetails
All times are local
ITM Cup
Wednesday, September 17
Southland 14 - 38 TasmanSouthland vs Tasman Report
More ITM Cup results
Aviva Premiership
Sunday , September 14
Wasps 20 - 16 NorthamptonWasps vs Northampton Report
Newcastle 18 - 20 London IrishNewcastle vs London Irish Report
More Aviva Premiership results
Guinness PRO12
Cardiff Blues 12 - 33 GlasgowCardiff Blues vs Glasgow Report
More Guinness PRO12 results
Top 14
Bordeaux-Begles 27 - 21 MontpellierBordeaux-Begles vs Montpellier Report
More Top 14 results
ITM Cup
Waikato 26 - 21 Counties ManukauWaikato vs Counties Manukau Report
Hawkes Bay 41 - 0 Otago
More ITM Cup results
Aviva Premiership
Saturday , September 13
Gloucester 34 - 27 Sale SharksGloucester vs Sale Sharks Report
Bath 53 - 26 London WelshBath vs London Welsh Report
Exeter 20 - 24 LeicesterExeter vs Leicester Report
More Aviva Premiership results
Rugby Championship
New Zealand 14 - 10 South AfricaNew Zealand vs South Africa Report
Australia 32 - 25 ArgentinaAustralia vs Argentina Report
More Rugby Championship results
Guinness PRO12
Leinster 42 - 12 ScarletsLeinster vs Scarlets Report
More Guinness PRO12 results
Top 14
Toulouse 9 - 13 Clermont AuvergneToulouse vs Clermont Auvergne Report
Bayonne 23 - 6 Brive
Oyonnax 40 - 27 Grenoble
Racing Metro Paris 28 - 11 LyonRacing Metro Paris vs Lyon Report
Toulon 24 - 28 Stade FrancaisToulon vs Stade Francais Report
More Top 14 results
Currie Cup
Griquas 31 - 27 PumasGriquas vs Pumas Report
Lions 35 - 33 Western ProvinceLions vs Western Province Report
Cheetahs 30 - 30 SharksCheetahs vs Sharks Report
More Currie Cup results
ITM Cup
Bay Of Plenty 12 - 27 AucklandBay Of Plenty vs Auckland Report
Southland 36 - 34 Northland
More ITM Cup results
Aviva Premiership
Friday , September 12
Harlequins 0 - 39 SaracensHarlequins vs Saracens Report
More Aviva Premiership results
Guinness PRO12
Benetton Treviso 10 - 21 MunsterBenetton Treviso vs Munster Report
More Guinness PRO12 results
Aviva Premiership Table
PosTeamPPts
1Saracens29
2Bath29
3Leicester Tigers29
4Exeter26
5Northampton26